You can read this whole short story free if you load it on Sept. 27 (Friday) and Sept. 28 (Sat.) by going to http://tinyurl.com/2muchsquash
Note: In the timeline of Kiki’s life, this short story comes after Picture, Perfect, Corpse: Book #7 and before Group, Photo, Grave: Book #8.
A Wednesday in August…
“How’s your mother feeling?” Lottie Feister quizzed my daughter Anya.
I was sitting cross-legged on the other side of the shelving unit so I overheard Lottie’s question. I thought about getting up and answering her myself, but I’d sat down here for a purpose. I was searching for a particular sheet of embellishments. I suppose I could have made my presence known, but I didn’t feel like moving. An hour earlier I’d had a particularly nasty bout of morning sickness. Right now, sitting still suited me—and yes, I was a little curious about Lottie’s interest.
“Mom’s fine, I guess. She gets pretty sick to her stomach, but she told me that’s normal. In fact, I went with her to the doctor for an appointment, and the physician’s assistant said that morning sickness is a good sign. That it means Mom’s hormones are changing,” said Anya.
“I hope she can keep working throughout her pregnancy,” said Lottie. “This store is like a second home to most of us.”
She was referencing Time in a Bottle, the scrapbook and craft store that I was buying. Now I felt glad I’d overheard Lottie’s questions. She probably represented the thinking of most of our patrons. As soon as I could, I would talk to my co-workers. Together we could brainstorm steps to take to reassure our customers. The last thing I wanted was for them to switch loyalties! Not when we’d worked so hard to become their primary source for all their papercrafting needs.
Bless Lottie’s heart, she was a yenta, which is Yiddish for “busybody,” not “matchmaker” as people have erroneously assumed because of Fiddler on the Roof. Ever since Lottie’s husband died of pancreatic cancer, she’s a lonely woman. The store has become the hub of her social activities—and I understand that. I’ve been there myself. But sometimes Lottie crosses a line. She’s incredibly curious about me and my life, and she’s taken to pumping everyone who works here for more information. Personal information that’s not really any of her business.
My name is Kiki Lowenstein. I’m a single mom to Anya, who is thirteen-going-on-thirty. My daughter and I are very close, especially since her father George Lowenstein was murdered nearly three years ago. This summer Anya begged me to let her work in the store rather than send her off to summer camp, which she dismissed as being “for babies.” I agreed to the arrangement for many reasons. Most of all, this might be our last chance to have a summer all to ourselves. But when I set down the rules for her “employment,” I forgot to warn her that a few of our customers might try to pump her for details of my private life.
Clearly an oversight on my part.
I am, after all, a bit of a curiosity. Even though my sweetheart, Detective Chad Detweiler, wants to marry me, I have declined his offer. I was pregnant with Anya when I married George, and that feeling of shame stained our entire marriage. I expected too little from George because I knew he had married me out of a sense of obligation. Not out of love. When I marry Detweiler—and I plan to do just that—I want to feel confident that he’s marrying me because he wants me as his wife, not because I am his baby mama.
All that aside, Chandler Detweiler has told me over and over that he wants me. Me. Pregnant. Non-pregnant. Whatever. “There’s only one you in the world, Kiki, and you’re the person I want to spend my life with.”
You can’t get much more loving than that!
But then, there’s my growing baby bump. And my rampant hormones. I admit that some days I feel overwhelmed by it all.
Most of the woman who frequent Time in a Bottle are a bit old-fashioned. They think I am making a mistake by waiting to marry Detweiler. They point out that my baby is his child, and therefore, my little one is entitled to legal protections offered by marriage. They also note that something could go drastically wrong when I give birth. In that case, Detweiler needs the right to step in and make decisions.
Ugh. I know they’re right, but that’s too upsetting to contemplate.
Perhaps their most compelling argument is money. As a St. Louis County law enforcement officer, Detweiler has terrific benefits. I have none. When I think about the expenses associated with having a baby, I wonder if my women friends are right.
But I made a promise to Anya that I wouldn’t marry Detweiler before the baby came. She had a little melt-down when she realized that she’s be the only Lowenstein left in our family because her grandmother, Sheila, is getting married, too.
And I intend to keep my promise to my daughter. I owe her that.
So I’m anticipating the costs of having a baby. I’ve been pinching every penny that comes my way. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve got a smear of copper on my fingertips.
Meanwhile, I need to stand tough while people question my decisions. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t considered the impact of my choices on Anya. It’s just that I didn’t realize how bold people would be in pestering her with questions.
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